Monday, October 6, 2008

Where's my bus?

As someone who works at an Academic Library reference desk but has an interest in Public Library reference, I sometimes get a little dizzy from learning all the separate terminologies and procedures for these two similar, yet different institutions. Which is why it’s nice when the two areas overlap.

One thing that public library and academic library patrons have in common is they all need to get somewhere. And as gas gets ever more expensive, more and more students and academic staff, as well as city residents and tourists, are turning to mass transit as their primary means of transportation. In Madison, this means people are riding the Metro Bus.

What does this mean for the reference desk? No matter what type of library you’re in, chances are, you'll get frequent inquiries about Metro routes, schedules, and arrival information. In Madison, up until now, this has been a dicey proposition, since bus departure and arrival times are notoriously unreliable due to traffic, weather, construction, and other such annoyances.

Reference staff need not worry though. With the arrival of the Madison Metro's "WebWatch" software, you can get real-time Madison Metro bus information via the Internet. In case the link doesn't work, use this URL:

Here are the main features of the site:

  • Real-time bus stop arrivals: You will need to know your bus' route number and direction, as well as the stop number for the location at which you are waiting. (Click "View Live Stop Times" for this info

  • Stop information for Smart Phones: If you have an Internet capable Smart Phone (Blackberry, BlackJack, etc) you can even view stop information right on your phone. (Click "Accessible Text Live Stop Times" for this info)

  • Real-time bus location: Perhaps the coolest feature of the site, Metro's GPS network allows you to view real-time bus location over Google Maps and Google Earth. When combined with the bus stop arrival info, you can know exactly where your bus is, as well as when it will get to your stop. (Click "View Map- Virtual Earth" OR "View Map- Google Maps" for this info)

Hopefully, with this information in hand, SLIS students can be not only more informed Metro riders, but also more knowledgeable and helpful Librarians!

NOTE: Users of the site should be aware that this is a Beta version of the program, so there may be occasional glitches, delays, and crashes.

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